Matthew 4:12-25

In a former sermon it was mentioned that we believers love to examine the words of Jesus, and words of the apostles, and the great and mighty acts of God; but that we have this human tendency to just read right through lesser events – not ascribing to them much meaning.

Now, although that is true with all of Scripture, the comments were made in the context of the heightened intensity of the words and deeds and movements of Jesus in the Gospels.  Remember that Matthew’s Gospel was originally written for the Jews first, and then for the Church as a whole.  And Matthew’s language is judgmental and condemnatory of the Jewish rejection of God’s mercy in His Son, and it is explanatory of God’s judgmental wrath toward them for their rejection.

And Jesus’ movements themselves, in the context of this Gospel, are indicative of rejection and acceptance – as His baptism signified.  As He turns His back on one, He goes toward the other.  The theology inherent in His movements is important.

And Matthew’s intent, in writing this Gospel, is to choose the specific language which is suitable to that goal, and also to choose the events and words of Jesus which are most suitable to that purpose.

And the most glaring example of that in this Gospel is right here before us this morning.  I’m sure that at least some of you might have noticed that there is a very abrupt transition from the temptations of Jesus by the dragon – to the information that is found here in verse twelve.

In verse eleven we find angels attending to Jesus after His wilderness ordeal.  But in verse twelve Matthew describes Jesus’ withdrawal into Galilee due to information He received concerning John’s being delivered up.  Now, in reading the other Gospels, it can easily be determined that there was indeed a lengthy time period between these two events.  A time period which included John’s continued preaching, Jesus’ trip to Galilee – during which he attended the marriage feast and changed the water into wine, Jesus’ encounter with Peter and Andrew – and Phillip and Nathanial, a trip back to Jerusalem for Passover, where He threw the money changers out of the temple – and where he had the exchange with Nicodemus – and where He taught and did many signs and wonders.  All of which Matthew determines not to include in the text of His Gospel.  Although one of these events he includes toward the end of Jesus’ ministry.

Remember, we said that Matthew’s Gospel is not a biography – nor is it the history of sequential events.  It is the Gospel!

So Matthew leaves out parts of Jesus’ life and ministry in order to illustrate the Divine rejection of Israel by Jesus’ withdrawal from Judea and His turn toward Galilee of the Gentiles.  And He did so when John the Baptist was delivered up to be killed by the Jews.  The occasion of this last killing of God’s prophets sealed the fate of Israel – as was illustrated by Jesus being baptized of John.  Israel’s last prophetic call to repentance was ignored, the last prophet beheaded, and Jesus turned His back to Jerusalem and forsook her.  She would now be judged as per the conditions of the covenantal law-suit, and she would die the double death forewarned by all the prophets.  Matthew has, indeed, chosen the language and events very carefully, in order that the Jews (and the church) not miss the significance of being forsaken of God.

As verse thirteen says, Jesus stayed in Nazareth for a time, and then moved to Capernaum, which is on the Northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee.  At this point, the Gospel of John says something about a prophet having no honor in his own home town or country, so apparently there were negative reactions to Him there in the synagogue.  And adding to that evidence is the word that Matthew uses here to describe Jesus’ leaving Nazareth.  The word “leaving” is the word used also for relinquishing, or forsaking.

But, be that as it may, the remainder of thirteen, plus fourteen, fifteen, and sixteen, give the reasons why the move to Capernaum was required.  Although still in Galilee, and only fifteen or so miles from Nazareth, Capernaum was in the part of the country originally allotted to Zebulon and Naphtali – one of the six sons of Jacob by Leah, and one of the two sons of Jacob by Rachel’s handmaid Bilhah.

And Matthew equates this move to Capernaum as a fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, in chapter nine verses one and two, as he says, “land of Zebulon, land of Naphtali, way of the Sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles, the people sitting in darkness saw great light, and to those sitting in land and shadow of death, to them light shined.”

Now, since Matthew doesn’t say, “It is written,” it’s not a direct quote.  And he does take some liberties with the language for interpretative reasons.  But the point is that the opposite from turning from Israel is happening!  The Son of God has turned His back on the first son of God, which has dishonored its Father, and He has turned His countenance – His light – toward Galilee of the Gentiles.  This is significant of the engrafting of the pagan nation, and the establishment of the world-wide Kingdom.

The context of Isaiah chapter nine is important to understand that.  You may remember, from chapter one, that the angel came to Joseph and told him not to fear, because the Child with Whom Mary is pregnant is of the Holy Spirit.  Then Matthew quotes from Isaiah chapter seven – “behold a virgin shall be with child, and she shall bear a Son, and they shall call His Name Immanuel – translated ‘God with us.’”

When those words were first said, in about 720 BC, Isaiah was speaking to King Ahaz of the northern kingdom of Israel.  Ahaz was an idolater, and he was making friendship pacts with pagan, Gentile nations out of fear.  And most of his fear was centered around Syria, which was just the other side of the Jordan and the Sea of Galilee.  But Ahaz had no confidence in Yahveh being “with him.”  So, God sent Isaiah to him in anger concerning his faithlessness, and his words to Ahaz contained the prophecy of His Son – Immanuel – God with us.

Chapter eight of Isaiah contains the prophecy of the destruction of that northern kingdom, who, in 701 BC, was annihilated by Sennacherib of Syria.  The tribes were never heard from again, and the entire northern portion of Israel became pagan – Syrian – Gentile – mixed in with the left-over Jews.  Also prophesied in that same chapter was the destruction of the southern kingdom of Judah, because, at the coming time of the fullness of its sins, it would be demonic, full of wizards and mystics, and full of hunger and trouble.

And then chapter nine.  Because of the complete apostasy of Israel, the Lord would once again turn to Zebulon and Naphtali – signifying the Gentiles, sitting in darkness – in the land of death, and the shadow of deep darkness and death.  And He would be Light.  He would bring to them the Kingdom.

“And then,” verse seventeen, “Jesus began to preach and to say ‘Repent, for the Kingdom of the heavens is at hand.’”  It’s remarkable, but the message is the exact same as John’s.  But it’s not so remarkable when you consider the rejection of that prophet and his message, and that Jesus then took the message to the nations.

This very thing had been prophesied before – in the Old Testament – in very graphic terms, hadn’t it?  And Jesus would use it later in this Gospel.  Jonah had not wanted the Gentile nation to repent, but the sea monster had swallowed him for three days – an ordeal of baptism by water – and then he was spewed out to preach to the nations.  And it was the command to repent.  And they did, indicating the future rejection of God’s old covenant nation and the receiving of the nations into God’s mercy; the sign of Jonah.

We’ll say some about this when we come to the last three verses of this chapter, but now we should look at verses eighteen through twenty-one.  Now, Jesus had already called Phillip and Nathaniel before He turned His back on Jerusalem.  So they were already his disciples and, more than likely were acting as His attendants or servants.  And, after His temptation, Jesus met Andrew and Peter, two brothers who had been baptized by John.  And, possibly, although it’s not explicitly stated in Scripture, possibly He met John, the son of Zebedee, who would later write the Gospel of John.

Anyway, these four verses before us contain the call of these four men, Peter, Andrew, James, and John, to be among the twelve.  And on a particular day Jesus was walking by the sea, verse eighteen, and He saw Peter and his brother Andrew casting their net.  They were fishing; their occupation.  And on the same day he saw James and John with their father Zebedee mending their nets in the boat.  They, too, had fishing as their occupation.  Apparently, after their meeting Jesus, and following Him home to Capernaum, they had then gone back to their occupation, while Jesus went back to Jerusalem to Passover and to turn His back to Jerusalem.

But all four of these men already knew Jesus, and, apparently God had already done a work in their hearts, which must have been burning; for when Jesus called them – “Come follow Me” – they immediately did so!  They dropped everything – occupation and family – and followed Him.

They knew that He was the Messiah promised of old, and that they were called by One Whom they must obey.  This was not done in blind impulse, but it was obedience to a Command by the Son of God.  It was immediately apparent to them that they must follow – there was no decision to make.

But we must also realize that none of these men were always with Jesus.  Their time with Him was intermittent.  He was not always teaching them, or traveling, or preaching, or healing.  So, as disciples, they had many opportunities to continue their occupations and be with their families.  It wasn’t until they received apostleship that they relinquished all other occupation.  And even then, most of them, like Paul later did, still had to engage in fund-raising ventures in order to support themselves, while living with their disciples.

But, as we all know, submission to Christ always is accompanied by the call for more submission.  Obedience is rewarded by the summons to more obedience.  And as these chosen disciples denied self for Christ, it slowly dawned on them what their vocation was to be in the Kingdom.  Their duty opened up to them bit by bit as they were taught by Him.

But the Word of the King is with power!  Christ’s call to them here in these verses is authoritative in its brevity.  This isn’t the normal Greek word for “come” or “go”, but an article of exhortation and incitement.  Come! Follow Me!  And all duty is summed up in the command.  He uses no arguments as to why – He doesn’t need to!  He uses words, and probably a tone, which, coming from somebody else, we would call arrogant.  His style is Royal.  Autocratic.

And these four men submitted absolutely to the curt order.  What’s the explanation for this authority?  How is it that the Kingdom which is liberty and freedom, from its very foundation, an absolute despotism?

Isn’t it true that this same authoritative summons reaches beyond these four young fishermen to all of us who are His sheep?  They were the first to hear it, and they continue to hold preeminence among us, but it’s the same voice and the same command which we hear!  And their prompt, self-surrendering response is the witness of the Power of God over the depraved hearts of men!

One pair of brothers left their net in the water.  The other pair left their father mending a broken net alone.  They left to be disciples – learners – people under discipline.  But Almighty God would imbue them with the power to become the apostles of the Church – the firstfruits – and the foundation of the Church built around the cornerstone which is Christ.

And let’s not leave this without saying that the same thing happens to all who are His.  We are commanded and called out to be disciples – people under discipline.  The same command is given; and the same fitness is given in order to accomplish whatever duties to which God has called; And we are all to deny self and promptly follow Christ; and we all have the obligation to disciple others, having been given the capacity to do so; and we all know, as sheep who know Him and hear His voice, that the command – “come, follow Me” – is one which we obey promptly!

Now.  As I read these last three verses please listen to Matthew’s choice of language here.  In reiterating words such as all, and every, and whole, he’s indicating the new universality of the Kingdom:


“And He was going around in all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues and preaching the Good News of the Kingdom, and healing every disease and every weakness among the people.  And the report of him went forth into the whole of Syria; and they brought all of the sick to Him, having various diseases and being seized with pain; those being demoniacs and lunatics, and paralytics, and He was healing them.  And large crowds follow Him, from Galilee and Decapolis, and Jerusalem and Judea, and beyond the Jordan.”


We must see this period of time as the record of the King’s triumphal progress through His dominions!  Matthew paints it as a time of joyful activity, of universal recognition, of swift and far-spreading fame.  The prophecy contained in the coming of the Magi is beginning to be fulfilled!

Jesus preaches repentance and the Kingdom, and then He demonstrates the power of God over the effects of sin.  Death, and depravity, and sickness, and pain, and disease, and demon possession, and sadness, and depression, and hopelessness!  The Good News, the Gospel, was being preached.  And that was His first task.  The Gospel of God is the Power of God into salvation to those who are believing.  And the Gospel is concerning His Son Jesus Christ, Who was made the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared the Son of God with Power, according to the Spirit of Holiness, by the resurrection from the dead!

This is the Christ Who has come to establish His Kingdom in the nations.  And, as He preaches the Good News of that Kingdom, He accompanies the preaching with miracles.  And even though we have only a few of these in the written record, they came in immense numbers.  The flow of miraculous power was unimpeded.  We don’t have adequate capacity to visualize the inexhaustible fountain of Power which flowed from the God-man to the nations as He demonstrates His arrival.

We’ll be examining these miracles as they come up in the text, but let me just give you, very quickly, the reasons why Christ accompanied His preaching and teaching with miracles:

First, the miracles attested the fact that He was Who He said He was.

Secondly, they were signs that the Kingdom was at hand.

Thirdly, they were illustrations of the nature of His Kingdom – He had conquered and bound the strong man, and He was spoiling His house.

Fourthly, they were examples of Christ’s power over the effects of sin and death.          

And, fifthly, they were expressions of the love and tenderness of Christ for the nations and people of the world.  Christ went about all Galilee healing those who were sick and hurting.  He was the great King, taking dominion, and bestowing gifts of love and sympathy on His new subjects.

And His welcome from the nations was enthusiastic and far-reaching.  They came from Jerusalem and Judea, from Decapolis – the ten cities established after Alexander the Great, from Syria, and from other places beyond the Jordan.  His fame spread like wild-fire, and they came by the thousands.  And the nations were aflame with their new King.

Next Lord’s Day we begin examining the second Mount Sinai, where Jesus took his disciples up on the mountain to teach them the Law of God, and how to pray for that Kingdom.

And our Lord Christ is still performing the greatest miracle of all at the preaching of His Kingdom.  It is the miracle of the creation of a new heart at the hearing of the Word.  And it is the miracle of the forgiveness of sin and defeat of death.  And it is the miracle of the reversal of the effects of death – in individuals and in society.

And how is it that new creations in Christ transform a decadent society into one which is burning with the fame of its Savior?